By Carol Westfall
During the last decade, the profile of the physician workforce has changed significantly – mainly due to a generational and gender shift. As the predominantly male Baby Boomer generation approaches retirement, a new, more diverse generation of physicians emerges with different expectations and needs.
The numbers tell the story:
· According to the American Medical Association more than one-third (35 percent) of practicing physicians are 55 years of age or older, and 83 percent are male. Physicians 39 years of age and younger represent 28 percent of the physician workforce, and the gender profile is 55 percent male and 45 percent female.
· The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that today’s medical school enrollment is 50/50 male and female. And, even as the U.S. population grew 15 percent between 1996 through 2007, the number of doctors graduated each year remained essentially flat, at approximately 16,100 physicians annually.
During this time of shortage and changing demographics, hospitals, health systems and medical groups are competing to recruit and retain physicians who bring with them new values, needs and expectations.
The same interview process Baby Boomers experienced is not the interview process that will impress the Millennial workforce. In fact, there are a number of strategies that have been proven to encourage a more effective recruitment and retention process for this “new generation” of physicians. If you can adapt and personalize their interview process to appeal to the new physician, you will gain a competitive edge.
Getting to Know the Young Physician
Young physicians can be expected to have strong time management skills and use technology to increase their efficiency. They understand the value of teamwork and thrive in an environment where they receive frequent feedback and mentoring.
Clear and established expectations are a must-have for this generation. They not only want to hear what the future holds for this position and how they can advance their career goals within the organization, but they want to see the specifics of “how much” and “when” spelled out clearly in their employment contracts. If it’s a group practice opportunity, the physician will want upfront details regarding partnership opportunities, such as a reasonable buy-in and participation in any production or ancillary profit distribution bonus opportunities.
The younger physician wants to connect with his or her peers, particularly during the interview process. Some of the best ways to foster this connection is through peer interviewing, shadowing or social event opportunities. This gives the candidate a real-life glimpse into the personalities and relationships in the workplace. Then, if the candidate is hired, this recruitment strategy could ease the transition of the new physician into your organization with a mentoring program, which has been shown to measurably increase retention.
All in the Family
What’s important to the younger physician is balance. They place significant emphasis on their ability to balance time at work with other interests and commitments. For these physicians, their spouse and family play a role in the decision to accept or decline a position. It is important to include the spouse or significant other in the interview process, especially if relocation is involved. This helps the organization gain a better understanding of the family dynamics, and the professional and personal needs of both the candidate and spouse or significant other.
Organizing tours of the area, career-networking options, school visits and information about recreational, religious and social interests often create the “tipping point” for a candidate. Employing the young physician is often a “package deal” and requires making both partners happy for the long term.
You can further ensure stronger retention if you carry this approach through the on-boarding process after the hire. Effective strategies may include:
· Providing dedicated relocation assistance.
· Including the spouse during some of the on-boarding activities.
· Providing career assistance or professional networking for the spouse.
· Creating social events for the family.
The Perfect Fit
Because recruitment and retention are directly related, organizations should focus on attracting young physicians who will quickly acclimate to the culture of your organization.
Develop a checklist of all of the qualities you are seeking in a candidate. Begin by addressing the following questions:
· Do you need a team player or an independent performer?
· Do you want a physician who will stay for 20 years or can you be satisfied with one who will stay for five?
· Are community involvement and civic contributions important?
· What does the candidate’s background tell you about his or her ability to fit in with your organization?
One of the most effective strategies for assessing whether a candidate will be a long-term cultural fit is through behavioral interviewing techniques. A candidate could be asked the following during the interview process:
· Describe an experience that required talking with a patient or staff member under particularly difficult circumstances.
· Tell me how you have created an environment where the staff members or patients are comfortable approaching you – even with bad news.
· Describe a time when you provided recognition of a staff member.
· Describe a time when someone wasn’t performing up to your standards.
· Tell me about your relationships at work. Describe a favorite relationship and a difficult relationship.
· Give me an example of how you mediate conflict in your office, department or organization.
· Describe a patient complaint or encounter and how you handled it.
A candidate will be interested in the style of your department and organization and may inquire:
· Does your organization value individual performance or team play?
· Is your organization’s style loose or structured with regard to schedules, coverage, etc.
· How social is the department and organization?
· How much value does your organization place on saving money and improving the bottom line? Will I have the resources I need?
These questions and others will likely be asked in anticipation of an honest and cohesive answer. While there is no fail-safe method for assessing candidates, a careful appraisal of the organization coupled with a detailed exploration of the young physician’s personal and professional goals helps determine if he or she is a good match.
Talk Up the Tech
Young physicians are attracted to technology; they grew up with it! They want to observe how it is used by the staff and received by the patients. whether it’s electronic medical records, e-prescribing or state-of-the-art medical equipment, your investment in technology communicates your dedication to patient care and greater efficiency through the use of technology.
How to Close the Deal
After discussing the details and the realities of the practice – productivity goals, the compensation model, call coverage, clinical hours, and patient volumes – the young physician will expect personal, direct and meaningful feedback. For example, the organization may include the following comments in the closing conversation:
· “We really like you and feel that the interview went very well.”
· “We believe you’d be a tremendous fit for our program and here’s why.”
· “What questions need to be answered before you would be comfortable joining us?”
· “What are your thoughts about the position and the organization?”
· “In what ways is this position a good fit for you and in what areas do you still have questions?”
If the candidate portrays a positive attitude and likes the organization, position, compensation and the community, be ready to make the offer.
Remember that first impressions count. The manner in which the on-site interview is conducted sends a clear message to the candidate about your organization. Personalizing lets the Millennial know that you understand his or her desire to fit well within the practice. To attract and keep a younger physician in your practice, it is increasingly important to understand and discuss a physician’s expectations regarding, or relative to, an ideal practice environment, including cultural fit, family and flexibility
Carol Westfall is President of Cejka Search, a nationally recognized physician and executive search organization providing services exclusively to the health care industry for more than 25 years.